The National Football League has struggled to keep a positive public image over the past year. With cases of domestic violence from NFL players gracing headlines – such as the suspension of Minnesota Vikings player Adrian Peterson for child abuse and the Baltimore Ravens Ray Rice domestic violence case – the NFL had credibility and consistency issues.
In December, league owners endorsed a policy that includes clearer guidelines, funds for counseling, expanded services for victims and violators, and a new special counsel for investigations and conduct, reported The Monitor. The new policy clearly outlines how the NFL will respond in future cases, alleviating some of the public discomfort with how they handled the previous.
But during the height of the domestic violence cases, multiple NFL sponsors issued statements criticizing the league's handling of the situation, and some threatened to pull sponsorship. The Wall Street Journal reported that Nike Inc. suspended its endorsements of both Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice. Other sponsors, such as Campbell Soup Co., CoverGirl, and McDonald's Corp., distanced themselves from the situation and issued statements condemning domestic violence. But with NFL games providing 17 million viewers on average, it is a difficult decision for companies to pull advertising and lose that audience.
"In a world where you can't get a big audience anymore, where the hell are you going to go?" said one major NFL advertiser, reported The Wall Street Journal. "Obviously, we don't condone violence against women, but how is it the right thing to do for our shareholders to pull out of the NFL?"
It now appears that some advertisers will use the premier TV venue for promotion – the Super Bowl – to more subtly address the domestic violence problem.
For example, Dove has already unveiled online, a 30-second commercial it plans to run on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 1, showing men’s #RealStrength can be found in more places than just the football field.
The clip, a version of which ran in honor of Father’s Day in 2014, features children of all ages yelling, crying, and exclaiming variations of “Dad” and “Daddy.” The dads in the video snuggle, giggle, throw their kids in the air, celebrate happy moments, and console tears while striking an emotional chord in the viewer. At the end, the ad concludes in on-screen text:
“What makes a man stronger? Showing that he cares.”
Jennifer Bremner, the director of marketing at Dove Men+Care, said in a statement that the commercial is part of a larger conversation about masculinity. It uses footage from its “Real Dad Moments” campaign that also went viral.
“We know that men today are embracing their caring roles more than ever, and that these experiences are fulfilling and strengthening them,” said Ms. Bremner. “Especially at a time when fans are overwhelmingly hearing about physical feats on the football field, we wanted men (and women) to hear at least one voice saying, ‘Care Makes a Man Stronger.’”
USA Today reported that Toyota will focus its Super Bowl ads on “bold dads.” They declined to give details, but Jack Hollis, the group vice president of marketing at Toyota, said the campaign is about “the bold choices we as parents—fathers—have to make every day for our families.”
A Doritos Super Bowl ad features a toddler saying his first word, which his father anticipates will be "Dada." Sadly, it's "Doritos."
Of course, many of these ads don't have any agenda beyond selling their products and reaching the NFL championship game's primary audience: men. In the past decade, the TV audience for the Super Bowl is about 10 percent more male than female or 55 percent male to 45 percent female.